The term “Orange Revolution” refers to a series of civil disobedience protests that took place in Ukraine from November 2004 to January 2005 after the tricky presidential elections in the country. It was found out that an electoral fraud was arranged in favor of Viktor Yanukovych against Viktor Yushchenko. Moreover, during the campaign for the elections Yushchenko was tried to be poisoned and killed. Huge protestations and demonstrations made by ten thousands of Ukrainian people caused the cancellation of the earlier elections and a revote was ordered by Ukraine’s Supreme Court for December 26, 2004. Under the close observation of international press, the elections turned to be a great victory for pro-Western presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko. The term Orange Revolution takes its name from the orange color of Yushchenko supporters’ electoral flags and symbols. After, pro-Western take-overs in many parts of Eurasia (such as in Georgia and Khirgizistan) similar to the case in Ukraine, the term gained a broader meaning and now is used for defining pro-Western governments’ take over in ex-communist countries that have close relations with Russian Federation. In this paper, I am going to critically analyze Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in the light of some articles.
Adrian Karatnycky in his article “Ukraine’s Orange Revolution” summarizes the events known as the Orange Revolution. In his view, Orange Revolution is a democratic movement made against tyranny and definitely marks a new point for ex-communist countries. According to Karatnycky, the victory of Yushchenko in Ukraine is a great humiliation for Russia and her leader Vladimir Putin and it also shows that Russia’s power in the region is not that much. Pro-western take-overs in the region certainly increase the benefit of USA and Europe and decrease the power of Russia. Karatnycky celebrates this situation as the victory and expansion of democracy but probably he praises the increase in the benefit of the West more than the expansion of democratic rules and regulations. Moreover, he does not talk about the financial operations made in these countries by international finance speculators like George Soros and huge amounts of contributions given by Western states and civil society organizations to pro-Western candidates.
Dominique Arel on the other hand in his article “The Orange Revolution: Analysis and Implications of the 2004 Presidential Elections in Ukraine”, describes the Orange Revolution as “the most momentous political event since the fall of the Berlin Wall”. However, Arel also admits that Orange Revolution created a tense polarization in the country and did not solve all the problems in front a democratic regime and an open society. While Arel praises the role of civil society, he also complains about the leading role of “nationalism” in this revolutionary change. Although he has some questions, he thinks that this event created the Ukrainian political nation and it is positive for a democratic regime.
Michael McFaul in his article “Importing Revolution: Internal and External Factors in Ukraine’s 2004 Democratic Breakthrough” discusses the internal and external factors that led to Orange Revolution. In his view, this movement was a transition to democracy that also meant weakening Russia’s sphere of influence and increasing Washington’s imperial reach. Orange Revolution of Ukraine in his view triggered other pro-American democratic movements in countries including Belarus, China, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe. Looking at internal factors, in McFaul’s idea, the most important factor of the revolution was the existence of a partially democratic system in Ukraine that created a convenient condition for a democratic reaction. The widespread corruption and the low legitimacy of the elite (unpopular leader) also facilitated the Orange Revolution. McFaul mentions that Orange Revolution was a product of Ukrainians but there were also some external factors. First of all, international media was very effective in portraying ex-president Kuchma as an illegitimate and criminal leader. Secondly, Western and pro-Western civil society organizations and media was very effective in uniting the whole opposition under the built charismatic leadership of Yushchenko. McFaul claims that there is no evidence that an American NGO directly supported Yushchenko’s campaign. Moreover, compared to Russian support for Yanukovych, Western support to Yushchenko was weak and the revolution was made by Ukrainians not by Western countries.
Steven Woehrel in his article “Ukraine’s Orange Revolution and U.S. Policy” analyzes the event in detail. He tries to answer whether this event could create a new wave of democratization in the post-Soviet Eastern European and Eurasian geography. Although Woehrel believes in the sincerity of Yushchenko’s democratization aims and his plan to make Ukraine a member of NATO and European Union, he also admits that these changes could not happen rapidly. Interestingly, Yushchenko also does not defend worse relations with Russia. Since his country is -in many ways- dependent on Russia, he tries to make a balance between his pro-Western foreign policy and traditional Ukrainian policy. Woehrel is very hopeful about Ukraine’s new “largely competent, fairly young, and highly motivated” leadership. But he also admits that there are some obstacles. First of all, he is afraid of pro-Yushchenko businessmen to become the new oligarchic elite of the country. More importantly, Ukraine’s heavy dependence on Russian energy may force new government to get rid of their pro-Western and democratic ideals. Steven Woehrel also points out the developing relations between US and Ukraine especially after the Orange Revolution and questions whether USA could be more effective against Russia in this region. In Woehrel’s idea USA should encourage Ukraine to become a member of NATO and should give economic help to the country.
Peter Barca, Elehie Natalie Skoczylas and Jeson Ingraham also analyze this event in their publication “Transforming Elections in Ukraine”. In their view, the electoral result was the sign of Ukrainian people’s desire for change, more freedoms and civil liberties. Writers later focus on Yushchenko government’s reforms. They praise new Ukrainian leader for expanding freedoms for the media, civil society organizations and for other political parties. 2006 elections was a success considering democratic openings and electoral honesty. However, elections turned to be a victory for pro-Russian Yanukovych side and he became the prime minister of Ukraine. 2006 elections showed that American influence in Ukraine is not that strong and without Russia’s support Ukraine could not go anywhere.
Reading these articles, I must say that although Orange Revolution of Ukraine created some positive developments in this country considering democratization and human rights, what I see behind this scene is American ideals of expanding free-market economics and liberal democracy. Energy struggle in Eurasia became the primary matter in 21st century international politics and we see that West (USA & Europe) - East (Russia & China) clash continues in many parts of the world. Although both sides have similar aims, USA and the West -by using the rhetoric of democracy and human rights- becomes advantageous against nation-states trying to be independent or other powers like Russia or China. These countries should admit their lack of success in expanding democracy in their own countries and in order to prevent American effect in their geography, should try to solve their problems by themselves.